Written by Khalid Mohamed in The Asian Age.
No winking. Eyes are a lethal weapon in the armoury of actors. Those who don’t know how to — or refuse to — act with their eyes end up delivering mediocre to lousy performances. They may be the most-wanted desserts after caramel custard but sorry they won’t be remembered as actors of calibre.
Take Salman Khan who always plays Salman Khan in every film he does. Fortuitously his acting streak has been visible once in an indigo moon — when he has been directed by Sooraj Barjatya or Sanjay Leela Bhansali. Forget the ghastly guest appearance in Saawariya though. Otherwise after a career of over two decades, the 46-year-old Khan hasn’t yet toted a performance of serious merit. A pity, because he is the most good-looking of the three Khans.
Indifference towards the potential of eyes — putting on glares randomly — are clear signs of an actor’s arrested development. Like it or not, the Bodyguard Khan exploits his body far more than er... his hidden soul.
So why am I getting into the eye thing this Sunday morning? It’s because I’ve been noticing eyes of the newbies go dead even in the liveliest of scenes. Ranveer Singh, who was such a delight in Band Baaja Baarat, is thoroughly vacuous in Ladies Versus Ricky Bahl. When he casts an adoring gaze at Anushka Sharma, he conveys about as much love as a divorce court. As for Anushka, her permanently pasted-on smiley excludes any emoting from the eyes. Neither, obviously, is convinced internally about the roles they are portraying. Ergo, the mechanical performances. Not surprisingly, debutante Parineeti Chopra, her eyes flashing anger and infatuation alternately, stole the romcom away from its lead pair.
Other actors whose eyes switch off as soon as the camera is on, are Abhishek Bachchan, John Abraham, Imran Khan and Akshay Kumar. You can never grasp what they’re thinking of because they haven’t taken acting to the level of the functional, or just about passable.
Of the heroines, Katrina Kaif used to be a blink-blink machine (she’s improved of late). Priyanka Chopra admittedly uses her eyes alluringly, but her mouth twists and wriggles far too much. In a scene in What’s Your Raashi?, Ms Chopra twitches her lips so furiously that it’s scary. Kareena Kapoor’s eyes are either very sad or very happy, with no-in-betweens. She fancies herself as a tremendous actress, but is she? She’s as bad or good as the role assigned to her. Proof: bad in Tashan (etc.), good in Chameli and Jab We Met. And for totally zonked out eyes, there’s Kangna Ranaut, who always looks as if she should have had an extra-strong cup of coffee before facing the camera.
On the more sparkling side, Dilip Kumar, Amitabh Bachchan, Rishi Kapoor, Naseeruddin Shah, Irrfan Khan, Ajay Devgn, Shah Rukh Khan, Aamir Khan, Hrithik Roshan and (surprise, surprise) Sunny Deol and Emraan Hashmi can look at the camera impactfully. In fact, Dilip Kumar could talk more forcefully with his silences even in his latter-day films like Shakti: a flicker of his eyes said more than thousands of words.
In the era of colour movies, the eye factor has been used wonderfully over the years by Sadhana, Rekha, Raakhee, Smita Patil, Shabana Azmi, Sridevi, Kajol, Rani Mukherjee, Aishwarya Rai, Tabu and Vidya Balan (best without contact lenses). Hema Malini’s eyes are hypnotic but speak fluently mainly during the dance sequences.
One of the virtues of acting from the eyes is the ability to cry without using glycerine. No one compares to Dilip Kumar and Aamir Khan in this emotionally demanding art. So the next time you’re at the movies, do look at what the eyes are saying. Or are they blank?